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Bush, Cheney, Powell Meet at Bush Ranch in Crawford, Texas

Aired November 30, 2000 - 1:28 p.m. ET


LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, his vice presidential running mate, and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Colin Powell, are meeting at the George W. Bush ranch in Crawford, Texas today. And they took about nine minutes out to meet with reporters, among speculation about Cabinet appointment choices and the new administration picks in a possible Bush administration.

Colin Powell often mentioned as a candidate for secretary of state in a Bush administration. Although George W. Bush said that he would not make an announcement this week on his particular choices. It is enlightening that Colin Powell made the track to Crawford, Texas, to the George W. Bush ranch for this meeting today. But we will have to see what the candidates and Mr. Powell have to say about all of this.

What are we seeing here? Do we know? I guess this is everyone arriving at the ranch, including George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Colin Powell and many more. When they step out of these vehicles, we will be able to see who the many more are.

This is a rather isolated area of Texas. At least two or three hours from the Austin State House. You remember on the night that Al Gore stepped into the evening news and made his proposals that it took George W. Bush about 2-3 hours to get back to Austin so that he could respond.

Jeanne Meserve, who is in all of these vehicles we're seeing pull up here?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, not Governor Bush. He's been down at the ranch now for a couple of days. This would be Secretary Cheney and General Colin Powell, I believe their wives are also with them today. And, of course, an extensive security entourage.

We know they left Washington about 9:30 Eastern this morning. And flew, we believe, into Waco, and from there drove over to the ranch. It is about a three-hour flight from Washington to Waco.

And of course, what they will be talking about is the transition. This is Dick Cheney's portfolio. He is sort of head of the transition effort, not sort of head of the transition effort, he head of the transition effort for Governor Bush. And of course, as you have mentioned, Colin Powell has been prominently mentioned as the man to be secretary of state in a Bush administration.

Now, we are not going to hear any announcements today or this week. Cheney said they want to see the situation in Florida clarified before they make any moves like that, make any announcements about Powell or any other possible Cabinet people. I believe there we are seeing a greeting by the Bushes.

WATERS: Andrew Card is the one that stepped outside of the door there.

MESERVE: OK, you may be able to see this a little better than I can. There they go, walking into the house, the door closing.

We are expecting we will get some pictures of the men meeting, and probably also have them talk to the cameras a bit and answer a couple of questions. Of course, as soon as we get that tape, we will turn it on.

WATERS: Here they are, Jeanne, this is obviously unedited videotape being fed in from the pool there in Crawford, Texas. Now we see George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Laura Bush, Mrs. Cheney, and the Powells walking out of the house there and approaching the microphones to talk to with reporters, we presume. So, let's hear what they have to say.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you all for coming. Laura and I are honored to welcome back to our ranch the Cheneys, and of course today the Powells have come to visit. And we're really thrilled that Colin and Alma took time out of their life to come down.

We're going to spend the afternoon talking about our transition and in particular, we want to talk about national security matters and foreign policy matters. No better person to talk about that with than Colin Powell. He has had a great deal of experience. Dick and I trust his judgment. And so I look forward to a really good afternoon.

And then, Dick and I and Andy Card tomorrow will be continuing to discuss both the transition and the set-up at the White House.

Colin, thanks for coming. Welcome to Crawford, Texas.

COLIN POWELL, FMR. JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Thank you, governor. It's good to be here and it's good to see you again, and thank you and Laura for inviting Alma and me to join you. I look forward to our conversations this afternoon on matters of international affairs and foreign policy, and also to discuss transition issues. So thanks for having me, and congratulations, governor, on your success in your election.

BUSH: Thanks.


We'll be glad to answer some questions.

QUESTION: General Powell, have you been asked to serve in a Bush administration? And would you serve in a Bush administration?

POWELL: I have not yet been asked. And if that question should be posed to me, I think I should answer it directly to the governor at that time, before answering it to anyone else.

QUESTION: Have you let it be known that you're concerned about being named secretary of state before Al Gore concedes or the legal wrangling is through?

POWELL: No, I've been reading that in the newspaper, but I have had no such conversation with the governor or with Secretary Cheney or anyone else. I'm not sure where that came from. It has always been my understanding in my earlier conversations with the governor that he would not move in that direction and begin appointing members of a Cabinet until all of this matter is behind us and resolved.

Obviously, he has appointed members of his transition team and those who have to get to work now, so that we don't lose too much time during the transition period. But I never expected that the governor would reach that point in his deliberations until after this matter had been resolved.

QUESTION: Governor, in Florida, with the special session of the state legislature, are you concerned that this has the appearance of a partisan power play to short circuit the courts?

BUSH: You know, here's my view. I've won three counts, and I think it's time to get some finality to the process. I felt like we won on Election Night, and then there was a recount in all Florida counties, and then there was a selected recount in additional Florida counties, and each time Dick Cheney and I ended up on top.

And the reason why we're moving forward with our discussions and the transition is because, when the counting finally stops, we want to be prepared to lead this nation. That's what we were elected to do.

And as far as the legal hassling and wrangling and posturing in Florida, I would suggest you talk to our good team in Florida led by Jim Baker.

QUESTION: So you are directing their decisions down there, is that correct?

BUSH: We're both being kept abreast of the options and opportunities. I decided that it was best to take our case to the Supreme Court of the United States, which will be heard tomorrow.

All options are on the table. But one of our strategies is to get this election ratified, and the sooner the better for the good of the country.

QUESTION: Governor, how do you respond to the criticism that, in fact, your legal team -- that your decisions are, in essence, delaying -- not delaying but sort of running out the clock to prevent the additional ballots, disputed ballots being counted? BUSH: As I recall the facts are these: Election Night we won. And then there was a recount, and we won. And there was a selected recount as a result of different legal maneuverings, and we won that. And I believe one of these days that all this is going to stop, and Dick Cheney and I will be the president and the vice president.

QUESTION: If this keeps dragging on day after day, when will you decide to go ahead and start making some of these personnel announcements?

BUSH: Well, we just have to wait and see, Tom. But as you know, Dick has opened up our office there in Washington, D.C. We're opened for business. Andy has been spending time with me and getting our White House team in place.

We'll make those announcements at the appropriate time.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Governor, what have you said to the Republican leadership in the Congress about how they should handle the budget negotiations...

BUSH: That's going to be up for them. I appreciate that question. I think that Leader Lott and the speaker are plenty capable themselves of figuring out how to end this legislative session. And should Dick and I become the vice president and the president, we will have a strategy to deal with the Congress -- the next Congress.

QUESTION: Governor, with Al Gore all over the airwaves, is this press availability in part because you're responding to criticism that you've appeared out of touch in the past few days, out of sight and out of touch?

BUSH: That's pretty humorous, Dave. Thank you all for coming.

WATERS: There you go with your photo-op, Jeanne Meserve, and you heard Colin Powell say, he didn't know where the suggestions were coming from that he was being considered for a Bush administration, secretary of state.

MESERVE: And you heard him say flatly that the position had not yet been offered, and refused to whether, when it was offered, whether he'd say yes or not. He says he would wait to say that first to Governor Bush before he says it to the rest of us.

Interesting also the questions about the Florida special legislative session. Governor Bush reverting to a line that we have heard over and over again, in these last several weeks, which is won we the election, we've won the recount, we won selected hand recounts, sooner or later this will be over.

The Bush team has really had very little to say about what the Florida Legislature has been doing, with one exception. You will remember that night after the Florida Supreme Court decision, which allowed the recounts to go forward and which delayed the certification of the vote, we heard James Baker, the point man in Florida, come out and sort of invite the Florida Legislature to do something. But since then, they have made a practice of saying nothing in the Bush campaign about what has been happening in Florida. The governor was asked pretty directly, if he had had some involvement in that. He simply avoided answering that question altogether, Lou.

WATERS: Did it seem to you as though the governor was reluctant to answer the question about whether or not he was calling the shots?

MESERVE: I thought that -- I am trying to remember exactly he had to say there, referring to my notes.

WATERS: He said, we are considering all options and keeping the book open here. But he was asked directly, if he was -- if he was the person calling the shots of what his people were doing down there in Florida. He kind of skated around that a little bit.

MESERVE: Well, it is the way of many politician says, as we know, Lou. Certainly, the governor is intimately involved in all of the decision-making, make no mistake about that. But he is getting a lot of advice from Dick Cheney, from James Baker, from others. But I'm sure, when it comes down to the final decision-making, it is the governor who in fact is calling the shots.

Interesting, too, he was asked, are you -- are you making yourself available here, because we've seen Al Gore all over the airwaves? And he sort of laughed at the that suggestion. But clearly, they wanted to have that picture taken today, as I may have mentioned to you before, this ranch is hours away. The press is not routinely staked out around the ranch. Colin Powell and Dick Cheney could have slipped in unobtrusively today, no one ever would have known they were there, but they wanted the cameras to record this moment. They wanted us to see that they are moving ahead with transition efforts, that they are acting indeed very much like a president-elect and his team.

WATERS: So is that the strategy? While this legal battle goes on, the strategy will be continuing as George W. Bush says, our transition office is open and we are doing business. We'll hear...

MESERVE: Absolutely, very much.

WATERS: All right, Jeanne Meserve.

MESERVE: Very much the case here.

WATERS: Jeanne Meserve, in Austin, again today.



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